School’s in for the summer
Summertime is school time for roughly one-fifth of the students in the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District who are taking five weeks out of their summer vacation to get up to speed academically and enrich their learning in areas such as science, technology, language and the arts.
Separate summer school programs began this week at elementary and middle schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, aimed at helping students who are performing below grade level in reading and math to catch up.
The Summer Advantage program for younger students is in its second year, but has nearly doubled the number of students it will reach this summer to more than 770 children. The program is being offered free of tuition to students in grades kindergarten through third in Carbondale and Basalt, and K-4 in Glenwood Springs.
Also entering its second year is the Calaway Opportunity Project summer school program for middle school students in the district.
That program, based at Carbondale Middle School but involving students from all three Re-1 communities, is reaching 270 students who will be entering fifth, sixth and seventh grades this coming fall.
In addition, high schools in the district are offering summer school offerings for their students who need an extra boost between school years.
Aspen-based Summit 54, which works to bring educational opportunities to under-served populations, is in partnership with the Re-1 school district to offer the Summer Advantage program. Grant funding to support the program comes from the Mile High United Way Social Innovation Fund.
Last summer, students who took part in the summer program at Basalt and Glenwood Springs Elementary schools showed an average of 3.7 months’ gain in their reading skills and 1.7 months in math.
Because of that success, the program was expanded to include Crystal River Elementary in Carbondale, and an extra grade level was added in Glenwood Springs.
A key purpose for the program is to prevent the “summer slide” that many students experience.
“Typically, a student will lose more than two months of progress over the summer,” explained Amber Decker, regional program director for Summer Advantage, which operates in four states including Colorado, Illinois, Indiana and Alabama.
That can be an extra challenge for those students who already are not quite up to grade level in their learning, she said.
The program was founded in Indiana in 2009 by Earl Martin Phalen, who made a point to refer to the students served by the program as “scholars.”
“It’s a way of recognizing that all students can learn and succeed,” Decker said.
Mary Peplin teaches special education at Glenwood Springs Middle School during the regular school year, and has taken on the role as program manager for Summer Advantage at GSES.
The Glenwood program includes 366 students who just completed kindergarten through fourth grade, either at GSES or Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood.
“Last year the students who went to summer school were so much more excited about school and ready to learn when they came back in the fall,” Peplin said. “There was a huge boost in self-confidence for these kids.”
She told of one student whose regular school-year teacher said he went from the bottom of his reading class to the top after going through the summer school program.
“You can really see the growth with these kids, and they do come out of the program feeling like they can be successful,” Peplin said.
Summer school students are assessed at the beginning of the five-week session and again at the end to measure their growth.
The program also includes bus transportation for those who need it, plus breakfast and lunch. More than 70 percent of the students in the Summer Advantage Program qualify for free or reduced lunch during the regular school year.
The day is structured so that students concentrate on reading and math in the morning, followed by a variety of project-based enrichment programs in the afternoon. That can range from art, dance, music or cooking to science and technology.
“Friday Fun Day” includes field trips for the participating students to various educational, outdoor and cultural attractions throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, such as Aspen Music Festival and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. The summer session will conclude with a college and career day at Basalt High School on Aug. 2.
Middle school project continues
The Calaway Opportunity Project for middle schoolers began last summer in the Re-1 school district, with funding support from local philanthropist and education supporter Jim Calaway.
The middle school program has the same goal of bringing students up to speed in reading and math over the summer, but with a focus on students entering fifth and sixth grades.
Though based at Carbondale Middle School, the program includes an even number of students from Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, explained CMS Principal Jennifer Lamont.
In addition to summer classes, the students are invited to continue receiving academic support as part of an extended-day program during the regular school year.
“The majority of the students continue to need that additional support throughout the year,” Lamont said, adding that “seven or eight kids from our school alone” improved to grade level and no longer needed summer school.
Like the program for the younger students, meals and transportation are provided and the day includes an academic focus in the morning, hands-on learning in the afternoon and a field trip of some sort once a week.
The program is being administered this summer by Glenwood Springs Middle School Principal Sandra DeCrow and CMS technology teacher Jason Krieling.
“Our middle school administrative staff has really taken the leadership on this, and making sure the right kids are there taking advantage of this opportunity,” Re-1 Superintendent Diana Sirko said. “That leadership has been the key in making this happen.”
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